It was 2012, and YouTube predicted that “the new TV” would be on the web. In order to prove that point, Google (owner of YouTube) developed a strategy to launch 100 premium channels. Artists from Madonna to Jay Z were invited to launch their own YouTube channel with a specified budget in return for a large quantity of content. Then my phone rang. It was a call from Pharrell Williams’ team. After a decade of Print publishing, this New Media adventure began my foray into the world of YouTube web channels and speed-making content. I entered this wonderful ride as their Director of Development & Production.
Named after Pharrell Williams’ company i am OTHER, this was one of the most interesting, diverse, and creative teams I’ve worked with, simply because Pharrell’s mantra was all about inviting those who DON’T fit in to the predictable structures of society — aka the “Others”. This channel would celebrate those who march to their own drum — and well, that spoke to me. Here’s an interview I moderated with Pharrell pre-launch where it was impossible to keep him serious in a late night of laughing and “working out” the vision…. a pack of renegades figuring it out. The pitch was this:
Brought to you by Pharrell Williams, i am OTHER is a new channel and cultural movement dedicated to Thinkers, Innovators and Outcasts—in short, OTHERS. Our programs explore the pursuit of individuality, the defiance of expectations, and the arrival of a new class of visionaries. Be OTHER.
Below was the official trailer for the YouTube channel, featuring some of his recording artists in the wild bunch. The clip was intended to simply be a teaser of the channel, the label, and the movement.
Overall, the channel did a bit of forecasting of talent which foretold some early names in their career. One example which our illustrious Executives, Robin Frank and Mimi Valdez spearheaded, was picking up the DIY show Awkward Black Girl, starring a lesser known (but a freshly viral sensation) Issa Rae. Awkward Black Girl aired on the i am OTHER YouTube channel until it got the attention of HBO — thus further evolving Issa’s character to a broader audience under the show INSECURE. Proof that mainstream success can be birthed from a home-grown YouTube show.
Additional web shows on the I AM OTHER channel included a humorous “Man on the Street” show entitled StereoTypes, as well as a monthly chat interview between Pharrell and a top fine artist (think KAWS, Murakami, etc).
Below is another series of profiles we filmed for the channel, some episodes which I curated and directed entitled OTHERS by Hypebeast. Some of these thought leaders went on to develop very impressive careers. I AM OTHER was around to celebrate the vision of these mavericks during their professional infancy. The videos have a more rudimentary style compared to my level of aesthetic today (hell, we were a bunch of youngsters running around with no budget, but lots of passion), yet somehow, we are all proud of the body of hard work, and gobs of hours that we managed to bang out and upload in such a short time.
(1) Sophia Amoruso for Nasty Gal: Curated almost a decade ago, a newcomer named Sophia Amoruso was gaining attention for her vintage website, Nasty Gal. Today she is a New York Times Bestselling author, Founder of Girlboss, and the powerful Media Network that brought women together through Rally’s and Podcasts. Today, she has launched her own Executive Coaching Masterclass called Business Class. This video was done freshly into Sophia Amoruso’s early rise into her new Los Angeles headquarters for Nasty Gal.
(2) Atrak: Brooklyn-based DJ, producer, record label and store owner A-Trak talks about growing his misfit brand Fool’s Gold Records into a creative empire.
(3) Street Etiquette: Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs of coveted men’s style site Street Etiquette are celebrated globally for their impeccable taste; an informed mix of classic American style and British dandyism, with a nod to their roots in the South Bronx. The fashion experts discuss how different cultures, ethnicities, and landscapes from New York City to Angola have influenced their aesthetic. Today Joshua Kissi has evolved into a deeper thought leader in the narrative of proper representation for POC, ranging from his film direction for The New York Times pieces to his own website business model, TONL, premiere diverse stock photography
(4) 13th Witness: Photographer Tim McGurr aka “13th Witness” is a New York native, the son of legendary street artist Futura2000, and one of the most popular users on Instagram. Tim talks about how he turned his travels and love of city landscapes into a career.
(5) Self Edge – Japanese Denim: Denim designers at Self Edge create bespoke jeans for their clients, often with rare and hard to find fabrics. Owner Johan Lam talks about the beauty of imperfections he learned from Japanese culture.
(5) Eddie Huang – Baohaus & Vice show Fresh off the Boat: Vice’s latest star Eddie Huang talks about the success of his book and now web series Fresh Off the Boat. Eddie explains how he found success with his East Village restaurant Baohaus while fighting against the stereotypes he experienced growing up as an Asian American.
(6) Fab.com: Co-founder of FAB.com Bradford Shellhammer explains the three things that make FAB different from any other online retailer and how it has become the world’s fastest growing eCommerce site.
(7) Outlier makes liberating men’s clothing designs that dance around the boundaries of fashion using a function driven design process and high quality technical fabrics.
Visit i am OTHER here on YouTube
This particular video series (OTHERS by Hypebeast) is just a drop in a large bucket of content produced for this channel.
The world of web content has evolved tremendously since 2012. Pharrell’s Creative Director, Mimi Valdez, went on to produce serious feature films, Dope, Roxanne Roxanne and Hidden Figures. The lo-fi web series, Angry Black Girl, which blossomed into HBO’s Insecure has since garnered 11 Nominations and 1 Emmy.
Sometimes, experiments take you to the next level. I believe we all learned a great deal about content creation and the monetisation of such a new industry thanks to the birth of this humble little YouTube channel.
Executive Producer: Pharrell Williams, General Manager: Caron Veazey, Creative Director: Mimi Valdés, Executive Producer: Robin Frank, Producer: Bethany Gould, DoP/Editor: Gabriel Stanley, Assistant Producer: Alexandra DePersia, Digital Marketing: Aviva Yael, Director of Development & Production: Jauretsi